Monday, December 11, 2017

What do Roy Moore, Al Franken, John Conyers and Donald Trump all have in common?

I don't know Roy Moore personally.

I don't know Al Franken personally.

I don't know John Conyers personally.

I don't know Donald Trump personally.

I've never spoken to any of them. I've never been in the same room as any of them. As far as I know, I don't know anyone who knows any of them. Yet, I know a few things about each of them.


They each have people they love. They likely treat those people kindly most of the time. They are probably generous to those people. They certainly would not wish harm on anyone they love nor would they intentionally do anything to bring harm on those they love.

They each have contributed positively to the lives of people around them.

At their best, their words have likely been more gracious than some of the words we have all spoken today. At their best, their actions have likely been kinder than some of our actions today.

They are all created in the image of God.

They are all loved by God.

Jesus went to the cross for each of them.

That's all I have to say about that this morning.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

4 Critical Elements of Effective Confession

After David's sin with Bathsheba, his friend Nathan confronted him. When David realized the depth of what he had done, we are told that he confessed his sin to Nathan and to the LORD. As he often did, David then turned to his moleskine? to journal his thoughts.

We call David's moleskine the book of Psalms and this particular journal entry is most likely Psalm 51. You can see the Psalm in its entirety at the end of this post, but consider now what it can teach us about how to confess our sins to God:

Ask for Mercy

David wrote, "Have mercy on me, O God..." When we approach God, we should never carry a spirit of entitlement and we should never make demands. We should recognize that we are unworthy of his love and compassions and we are unable to cleanse ourselves.

Those who ask for mercy are those who have realized they need help. Only God can provide us with the righteousness we need, apart from Him and his purification, we are broken and lost souls. Thus we ask for mercy.

Acknowledge your sin

David wrote, "I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." He made no excuses, he gave no reasons, he didn't try to rationalize his actions. He simply acknowledged that he had failed. Three words which are very difficult to speak are words we must all learn to say. "I was wrong."

I heard it once said that a heartfelt confession does not say, "I broke God's rules" but rather says, "I broke God's heart." Our sin has devastated God's creation and driven a wedge between our heart and God's. Only when we assume full responsibility for our sin can the healing process begin.

Accept purification

David wrote, "Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." Sin leaves a deep stain on our soul that we cannot get clean, but God washes us with the blood of Christ which purifies us from all unrighteousness.

Hyssop is a sponge like plant that was often used in the ancient world for bathing and cleaning. At the Passover, a hyssop plant was used to spread lamb's blood on the door posts so that the Death Angel would "pass over" the homes of God's people. Later, during tabernacle sacrifices, hyssop was used to sprinkle blood on the alter as a sign of confession and repentance. Moses' law also instructed Israelites to use a hyssop plant in some of the ceremonial cleansing ceremonies. Centuries later, a hyssop plant was used in one more ceremony. On the cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." His executioners provided him a hyssop plant which had been dipped in wine and vinegar.

When David said, "cleanse me with hyssop" he was undoubtedly looking back to Moses' law and the passover, but he was also unwittingly pointing ahead to the work of Jesus on the cross. Because of Jesus, 1 John 1:9 is true, "If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to CLEANSE US from all unrighteousness."

Assume a new direction

David wrote, "Create in me a pure heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me." David assumed that his life post-confession would be very different than his life pre-temptation.

Once God cleansed him, his heart would be pure. He would learn to love what God loves and to love how God loves. He would desire and pursue  God's priorities instead of his own.

Once God cleansed him, his spirit would be right. He would be content with God's provision. He would find hope and joy in the promises of God rather than the offerings of the world.

True confession doesn't happen because we get caught. True confession happens because we want to change. When we acknowledge our sin and accept God's purification, our life will take a new, and far better direction.


Read the entire Psalm below:


Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

How a Simple Typo Deepened My Understanding and Changed My Perspective

I meant to type the word "trial", but instead I typed "trail". 

As I looked at my mistake I thought of James 1:2-4 as descriptive of a journey. The final destination is perfection and completeness (Christlikeness). Before we reach that destination, we must journey through the forest of steadfastness, learning how to be faithful and becoming more impressed by future glories than present suffering. 


Of course the TRAIL on which we walk through and to these destinations is named "TRIALS".

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Please Pray for My Friend

In 1984 the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, the Apple Computer replaced the Macintosh personal computer, Ronald Reagan was re-elected as president and my family moved to Muskegon, Michigan.
The first time we walked through the doors of the new church, a kind lady introduced herself to me and said, "My son is 'David' also. Let me introduce you to him." She walked me to the basement of the church where her son was already in Sunday School class and introduced me to one of my lifelong friends.
Since that moment, I have always been "David" because he has always been "Dave". It's been only been 33 years, but it feels like he's been with me through every part of my life.
He was my vice president when we ran against Matt and Jack in the mock election. We bunked together with Brian at Lake Ann. We threw marbles down the stairs and spit-wads at the chalkboard in middle school. While I patrolled the midfield throughout high school soccer, he played whichever wing was closest to the crowd side. In basketball, he padded his rebound stats by always missing the first shot (effectively clearing my assist) and making the second.
In college, we won intramural championships together, participated in the Lawlor riots, built a coal mine and a jurassic world in our suite, attended Church of the Inner Spring and when he got a deer under questionable circumstances... well, I know nothing about that.
I watched him beat cancer and then re-find the love of his life. I had the incredible privilege of performing the ceremony uniting him to Amy. I've watched him become an amazing father to his miracle little girl.
Dave is a friend after God's own heart. He is kind and caring to everyone he meets. He is the epitome of loyalty, choosing always to believe the best in me even when he didn't have to and it didn't benefit him.
Tomorrow my friend Dave will go under the doctor's knife.
Every week, I spend a great deal of time reading and praying over the requests of hundreds of my friends. My heart is always moved by what others are dealing with. If it's possible I'm going to be praying harder tomorrow. Will you pray with me for my friend?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

6 Verses To Remind Yourself That God Is With You

When you find yourself in the wilderness of life, it is helpful to remember that God is there with you. Whether you are facing disappointment, discouragement, abandonment or uncertainty; God is with you. Not only does He know where you have been and where you are, He knows where you are going. Use these verses to remind you of this powerful truth:

Because God is with me, I need not be afraid

Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Because God is with me, He will be my strength

Isaiah 41:10 - Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Because God is with me, I can live with confidence

Romans 8:38 & 39 - For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because God is with me, I will keep on walking

Psalm 23:4 - Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Because God is with me, I can engage His mission

Matthew 28:19 & 20 - Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Because God is with me, I can be content no matter what

Hebrews 13:5 - Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Thursday, October 5, 2017

How Should Christians Process Horrific Tragedies?

Every week I send an email to our church family. Often this is just an update or reminder about coming events. This week, I chose to write about the Las Vegas shooting, and how I've been processing my thoughts. Below are my words to the church:


Dear Friends,

Monday morning, we woke up to the terrible news that a man had chosen to destroy the lives of hundreds of people and families in Las Vegas. In times like these it is difficult to know what to say. We have questions about why God would allow this and why these people's lives were ended without any apparent reason.

As I pondered these questions and this tragedy, I was reminded of Jesus' words in Luke 13.  Pontius Pilate, the cruel Roman leader, had ordered the deaths of many Jewish people. Their executions were carried out by Roman soldiers in the temple while they were offering sacrifices. This horrific act seemed senseless and horrific. For the Jews, it raised several of the same questions we are asking about Las Vegas.

In Luke 13, Jesus was asked about these events and in his response he also referenced a tower that had fallen and killed 18 people. Here are Jesus' words:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Consider the important points behind what Jesus is saying:
  • These people didn't die because of their sin. Sometimes, in a fallen world, bad things happen.
  • Let this be a reminder to you that death comes for all of us, often unexpectedly.
  • Are you ready to die?

As we grieve for this great loss of lives and as we seek ways to reach out to those who are hurting, let us also take time to reflect on our own lives. Are we ready to meet our maker? How well have we invested the time and resources He has given us? What will I do today that will matter in eternity?

Also, let's not forget, that in the midst of this pain and suffering we have great hope. We can still live with joy because we know that this present evil is only for a short time compared to the eternal inheritance our Father has prepared for us. We can be grateful to Him, we can have hope in the future and we can pour love and joy into the lives of those around us.

I'll see you on Sunday, when appropriately, we'll be talking about David in the wilderness. How do you respond when you find yourself in life's wilderness? Join my at 9:30 or 11 to talk more about it!

In Him,
David

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Las Vegas Shooting: A Window Into Hell?

Jimmy Kimmel recently said, "It feels like someone has opened a window into hell."
He is exactly right. Romans 1 suggests that at some points in human history, God releases His creatures to the consequences of their own desires.


Because they worship the creation instead of the Creator (read: they believe God and His Word to be irrelevant), He allows them to see what life without Him is truly like. It is almost as if God releases His sustaining hand for a moment.
"since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done." (Romans 1:28)
It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.
And having opened that window and seen into that window, how much more should we desire to turn from that window and embrace the loving and gracious authority of our Heavenly Father who has called us to a better path and a brighter future?